Qatar and Belarus are set to take the diplomatic and business ties to higher levels by strengthening co-operation in key areas, Belarus embassy charge d'affaires Denis Kovalev told Gulf Times.
The exclusive interview marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Qatar and Belarus on January 16.
The two countries hold positive political relations and co-operation in various areas including tourism, business, culture, arts and international security, he said.
“Our views on the most important global topics are rather common. Our countries support each other in international organisations. We established good co-operation between the interior ministries and many Qatari officers trained in Belarus," Kovalev explained.
The previous years have marked the regular visits of high level delegations from the Belarus Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defence for Milipol and Dimdex exhibitions in Qatar. In 2012, Belarus and Qatar exchanged the Days of Culture in Doha and Minsk.
Three meetings have been held as part of the Joint Inter Governmental Co-operation with a fourth planned in Minsk. Belarus opened it's embassy in Doha in 2014 while the Qatar embassy started functioning in Minsk in 2019. At present, the embassies are headed by charge d’affaires. “We hope that in future the ambassadors will be appointed,” he said.
Kovalev noted that the relations between the two countries developed dynamically over the years and were always based on mutual trust and friendship. In 2001, 2011 and 2016 Belarus president visited Qatar. In 2009, the then Amir His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Belarus in 2009. Former Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Belarus five times. These are in addition to several meetings, attended by the official delegations and visits hosted by the two countries.
While it comes to sports and culture, the two countries have been exchanging visits for several years. In May 2014, the official delegation of Qatar, led by the then secretary general of Qatar Olympic Committee HE Sheikh Saud bin Abdulrahman al-Thani visited Minsk to participate in the events of the World Hockey Championship. In 2016, the then secretary general of the Committee of winter sports of Qatar Adel al-Mutlaq visited Minsk during the 12th Christmas International Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament.
In July 2019, the delegation of Qatar Olympic Committee visited Belarus to take part in the second European Games. In October 2019, the delegation of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus took part in the meeting of General Assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees in Doha.
Kovalev said cultural ties between the two countries are well established. In March 2012, Days of Belarusian Culture were held in Qatar while Days of Culture of Qatar were organised in Belarus. The Qatari delegation was headed by the then Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage HE Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari.
Qatari nationals can visit Belarus without visa for 30 days after an official decree was issued in 2011 while Qatar announced visa free entry for Belarusian citizens in 2017. “These are very important steps in bilateral relations that have given better opportunities for businessmen and tourists to visit Belarus and Qatar helping them know more about the culture and traditions of the two countries,” the diplomat said.
The Belarus embassy charge d'affaires Denis expects a boost in bilateral trade. Belarus exports milk whey, dry milk, ready-made seafood products, luggage scanning equipment, potash fertilisers, wood products for construction and other items while Qatar exports ethylene polymers for several millions of dollars annually. Belarus also produces agricultural tractors, trucks for cargo, dump trucks, a wide range of agricultural products, construction materials and chemical products. “We are also the leader in our region in the IT industry. All these give good opportunities for more active development of Belarus-Qatari trade,” he said.
At present Qatari investments in Belarus is about $200mn. “In 2015, Qatar opened Marriott Hotel and a sports complex in Minsk. This is one of the best hotels in Belarus capital. We believe that this will pave the way for new Qatari investments in Belarus and our government is ready to support Qatari investors,” he said adding that trade and investment will be priority topics for discussion during the fourth Belarus-Qatar Inter Governmental Committee meeting that will be attended by ministerial delegations.
The envoy also expects that the number of Belarus expatriates in Qatar will go up. “Most of the less than 1,000 Belarusian expatriates work in Qatar Airways and the hospitality sector while some of them are engineers. We assess that in future this number will grow, especially with the new Qatari labour legislation which gives more protection for expatriate employees.”
While thanking Qatar for its help, Kovalev said Belarus received medical cargo in support to fight Covid-19. “Our country highly appreciates this step and considers this as a true confirmation of friendship and solidarity,” he added.
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